Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

Timbisha Shoshone

Few people realize that an American Indian tribe currently lives and thrives in the heart of Death Valley National Park. For thousands of years, the Timbisha Shoshone people have resided in Southeastern California and Southwestern Nevada. Since 1936, the tribe has governed their affairs on approximately 40 acres of land near Furnace Creek. The tribe achieved federal recognition in 1983, but did not have a land base until the passage of the Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act on November 1, 2000. This act granted the tribe the rights to nearly 7,000 acres of land both in the park and adjacent to its acreage. 

The traditional ancestral homeland of the Timbisha covered approximately 11 million acres, most of it within the Mojave Desert. The Timbisha began to be displaced in the mid-19th century, when ranchers and homesteaders moved into the region to work in mining camps. In the early 20th century, the tribe became even more dislocated; between the mid-1920s and 1936, they were forced to move four times. 

The Timbisha Shoshone Homeland Act also provides for the purchase of two areas currently held by private interests. At the Furnace Creek site, the tribe has plans to build single family residences, a tribal community center, an inn, a tribal museum and a cultural center with a gift shop. Although the legislation bans hunting and gaming, the Act does allow the tribe to continue traditional plant management and harvesting.